Yampa River Botanic Park offers visitors serenity

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If you visit the Yampa River Botanic Park once, chances are you will return again and again.

This six-acre city park hosts 40 gardens, 500 trees and many species of small wildlife. "It has its own ecosystem that's designed so that you don't see any houses or roofs," said park director Gayle Noonan.

Serenity is only one of the park's perks. It is also a great place to study the plants and landscapes of Northwest Colorado. "Some people come to find out what they can grow in their own garden," Noonan said. "It's a great resource."

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The Yampa River Botanic Park is free to visit.

The land for the Botanic Park was originally a hay meadow that was donated to the city by Bob and Audrey Enever in 1991. The earthwork was done in 1995, trees were planted in 1996 and the park was opened to the public in 1997.

The park is maintained daily by a full time staff and volunteers that come every Wednesday and Saturday for "social gardening." They provide routine maintenance, weeding and of course, socializing.

A child-size amphitheatre was built last year in the Children's Garden where the Children's Garden Club and Wee Sprouts from Yampatika will be held. Wee Sprouts is a program in which children can learn what it's like to get their hands dirty and watch a seed grow into something they can eat.

"This summer, you can look forward to some free evenings of children's entertainment," Noonan said. The park also hosts the "Music on the Green" concerts in collaboration with Strings in the Mountains. The concerts provide free performances by young artists in residence and local musicians. They take place every Thursday at 12:15 p.m. from June 15 through August 17.

The park is free to visit and is self-guided with a map and color-coded signs in all the gardens. Sculptures and 27 picnic benches can be found along the park's winding trail. The labyrinth of tranquility started in 1996 with Kerry's Garden, named for Kerry Kaster, the former director of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation.

From there, it expanded to form a butterfly garden whose plants attract insects of all kinds, especially butterflies; the Daylily Garden whose plants have flowers that bloom for only one day; the Member's Rock Garden, which has high-altitude and semi-desert plants growing between large, flat rocks; and the Pioneer Garden, which is based on the plants that early settlers brought to the Yampa Valley.

The park is a popular place to host weddings. "We have weddings almost every weekend, sometimes two a day," Noonan said.

The park relies on private donations, grants, membership fees, fundraisers and a private endowment set up by the Enevers. The park is always looking for new ways to support itself.

To get to the park, take U.S. Highway 40 from downtown Steamboat toward the mountain. At the Sinclair Gas Station, turn right on Trafalgar Lane. Turn left on Pamela Lane and drive to the end of the road to a parking lot. The park is in the far left corner of the parking lot. Follow the signs.

Visitors are encouraged to access the park via foot or bike from the Yampa River Core Trail, take the bus, or carpool because parking is limited. Dogs and bike riding are not permitted in the park. The park is open from May 1 through Oct. 31, weather permitting.

Handicapped tours are available by appointment. Call 846-5172.

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